Author Topic: EM Drive X-Prize Planning  (Read 58517 times)

EM Drive X-Prize Planning
« on: 05/12/2015 05:24 pm »
Hello everyone!  After a conversation on the main thread about the EM Drive, I reached out to the X-prize foundation and am now engaged in creating an X-prize project for/around EM Drive research.  TLDR: if you'd like to help make this happen, message me. 

The EM Drive is something that simultaneously seems impossible but/and has tremendous upside.  They agree that this is precisely the sort of thing that the X-prize was designed for.  I'll be working with them over the next few months to design and hopefully launch.  Targeting late summer/early fall for launch.

Running an X-prize consists of three major steps:

1.  Challenge design
2.  Running the challenge
3.  Judging the challenge

We are on step one and that has several key subcomponents:

* Most important is the design of the "challenge criteria".  This needs to be some set of objectively measurable events that a) Competitors could plausibly achieve during the challenge duration and b) Represent a clear and valuable addition to the state of the art.  This is the primary focus on this thread on the Forum. 

* Identify and recruit Judges.  In our case, this will be almost as important as the criteria.  The panel of judges has to be fair, objective and very high credibility.  Clearly having the X-Prize behind this challenge will help getting the right people on-board.

* Set the intellectual property rules for the challenge.  These can range from "all the IP created during the challenge is owned by the entity that runs the challenge" to "all the IP is put in the public domain" and everywhere in-between.  They have run challenges with all sorts of IP rules, and this can be a very important part of a challenge. 

* Set the magnitude of the prize and how it is divvied up.  Does the winner take all?  Does some fraction go to the top fast followers? 

* I will be working with them to raise the money for the challenge, but don't worry there will be a crowd funding component. 

After the challenge is designed, the next step is raising the money and promoting it.  They have a powerful platform for both and with the help of the good folks who are interested in the EM Drive, it seems likely that we could get several teams from around the world trying to hit this target.


Offline Hanelyp

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Re: EM Drive X-Prize Planning
« Reply #1 on: 05/12/2015 06:33 pm »
Given that we're discussing an effect that would overturn a great deal of established physics if substantiated, demonstration of effect at some margin beyond noise floor would be an appropriate criteria.  The particular mechanism by which effect is generated should be irrelevant for the prize, beyond taking appropriate measure to eliminate a false signal.  It should be possible to treat the complete test device inside isolation enclosure as a black box into which is fed measured DC power to produce thrust.  Isolation and measurement method must rule out electromagnetic, convective, and stiction artifacts.

Needless to say, if I were a judge of such a prize I would be very skeptical.

Offline sfrank

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Re: EM Drive X-Prize Planning
« Reply #2 on: 05/12/2015 07:25 pm »
It seems to me one problem with offering a prize for confirming an actual effect is that there will likely always be some environmental problem with any individual test that could cast doubt on the measurements.  Confirmation will come from a preponderance of independent tests arriving at the same conclusions.  In which case, there's no single person to award the prize to (except perhaps Roger Shawyer?)

Personally I think if you're keen to fund Emdrive research, a better way would be to set up a gofundme for the replicators.  Then all the people here and on reddit that are interested in funding research can do so.  You can then have the replicators apply to have funds distributed to purchase equipment for them to use. 

Offline Mulletron

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Re: EM Drive X-Prize Planning
« Reply #3 on: 05/12/2015 08:23 pm »
Given that we're discussing an effect that would overturn a great deal of established physics if substantiated, demonstration of effect at some margin beyond noise floor would be an appropriate criteria.  The particular mechanism by which effect is generated should be irrelevant for the prize, beyond taking appropriate measure to eliminate a false signal.  It should be possible to treat the complete test device inside isolation enclosure as a black box into which is fed measured DC power to produce thrust.  Isolation and measurement method must rule out electromagnetic, convective, and stiction artifacts.

Needless to say, if I were a judge of such a prize I would be very skeptical.

I second Hanelyp's comments. Absolutely first and foremost, this effect must be confirmed beyond a shadow of a doubt before any further progress can be made.

The public must be confident this effect is in fact real. Adding credibility to the proposed effect will also help drive research into the underlying science behind the anomalous thrust. A viable theory of operation will spur development through sound engineering.

IF that basic requirement can be met, I'd like to see performance metrics developed which focus on demonstrating increasing levels of thrust force per power input. I'm thinking of using the crawl, walk, run method to spur development. First the small things. What I have in mind will support two initial objectives:

The first is to demonstrate thrust levels which don't require state of the art gear in order to measure thrust. We have to get this out of the noise floor. A good place to start would be able to demonstrate at least 100uN of thrust every single time. This was mentioned by Paul March as a requirement before Eagleworks can pass off to GRC:
http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=36313.msg1326608#msg1326608

The second objective is directly in support of enabling future spaceflight applications. Taking directly from section V of Anomalous Thrust Production from an RF Test Device Measured on a Low-Thrust Torsion Pendulum..see attachment, I'd like to see the following enabling objective met:
Quote
Based on test data and theoretical model development, the expected thrust to power for initial flight applications is expected to be in the 0.4 newton per kilowatt electric (N/kWe) range..

At the other end of the spectrum, how about some blue sky thinking? I think a good penultimate challenge would be to demonstrate a thrust to engine weight ratio >1.

Ultimate challenge? How about performance which will enable this?
http://www.xprize.org/prizes/future-prizes/transporter

« Last Edit: 05/12/2015 08:27 pm by Mulletron »
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Offline QuantumG

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Re: EM Drive X-Prize Planning
« Reply #4 on: 05/12/2015 10:07 pm »
Cubesat.
Human spaceflight is basically just LARPing now.

Offline Asteroza

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Re: EM Drive X-Prize Planning
« Reply #5 on: 05/12/2015 11:32 pm »
Cubesat.

Are you suggesting the X-prize people performs the launch scheduling for a cubesat cluster launch, and perhaps provides some cubesat chassis for participants? Say, 6U types?

Re: EM Drive X-Prize Planning
« Reply #6 on: 05/13/2015 12:48 am »
I completely agree (including the requisite skepticism).  So, what does this look like in detail? 


Given that we're discussing an effect that would overturn a great deal of established physics if substantiated, demonstration of effect at some margin beyond noise floor would be an appropriate criteria.  The particular mechanism by which effect is generated should be irrelevant for the prize, beyond taking appropriate measure to eliminate a false signal.  It should be possible to treat the complete test device inside isolation enclosure as a black box into which is fed measured DC power to produce thrust.  Isolation and measurement method must rule out electromagnetic, convective, and stiction artifacts.

Needless to say, if I were a judge of such a prize I would be very skeptical.

Re: EM Drive X-Prize Planning
« Reply #7 on: 05/13/2015 12:53 am »
1.  Maybe.  But there are clearly step-function demonstrations that will *strongly* activate multi-party interest in further work  - particularly from both private and public funding.  One major reason why I got interested in the X-prize is that it very much gets the attention of technology investors/entrepreneurs.  An appropriately framed challenge could easily push this into something that gets material investment and attention. 

2.  The major differentiator between an X-prize and something like gofundme is the multiplier effect.  Precisely because it is something that has enormous (and relatively obvious) commercial upside, a well-crafted X-prize might be expected to generate many times its magnitude in actual investment in the challenge.  This is commonly the case for X-prize events. 


It seems to me one problem with offering a prize for confirming an actual effect is that there will likely always be some environmental problem with any individual test that could cast doubt on the measurements.  Confirmation will come from a preponderance of independent tests arriving at the same conclusions.  In which case, there's no single person to award the prize to (except perhaps Roger Shawyer?)

Personally I think if you're keen to fund Emdrive research, a better way would be to set up a gofundme for the replicators.  Then all the people here and on reddit that are interested in funding research can do so.  You can then have the replicators apply to have funds distributed to purchase equipment for them to use.

Offline Mulletron

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Re: EM Drive X-Prize Planning
« Reply #8 on: 05/13/2015 07:32 am »
Another resource attached detailing what it would take to enable crewed Mars, Jupiter and Saturn missions.
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Offline A_M_Swallow

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Re: EM Drive X-Prize Planning
« Reply #9 on: 05/13/2015 11:08 am »
One of the prizes could be a day (or week) of testing in a vacuum chamber. This could be granted to 4-5 teams. Use of a vacuum chamber may not be considered a major prize by an official NASA team but few lone inventors have one.

Setting up a vacuum chamber with an electrified mini rail track inside is a significant cost but being reusable infrastructure it is cheap to allow several teams to use it. Much of the instrumentation, including cameras, can be built in.

Offline sghill

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Re: EM Drive X-Prize Planning
« Reply #10 on: 05/13/2015 02:57 pm »
I propose two challenges that are easy enough to judge.

Challenge #1: One million dollars is awarded to the first team that develops a mathematical proof of how and why the EM Drive operates.  I want to see "Q.E.D." at the end of the proof, and not "and then a miracle happens..."

Challenge #2: Ten million dollars is awarded to the first team that floats a working EM drive into an auditorium (without irradiating the audience).

Bonus Milestone Challenge!:  US$50,000 is awarded to the first team that demonstrates a working EMdrive with a measured thrust signal 3 standard deviations, screw it, 4 standard deviations, above the predicted noise levels.
« Last Edit: 05/13/2015 05:42 pm by sghill »
Bring the thunder!

Re: EM Drive X-Prize Planning
« Reply #11 on: 05/13/2015 04:04 pm »
Interestingly, so long as I'm driving this bus, there will be no focus on the science, i.e., on the underlying physical understanding of precisely how this works.  My feeling is that is precisely the domain of academic research - and will require potentially substantial work. 

The point of this device is that it is real and testable.  We don't actually have to know how it works - only that it really does.  From there two great things happen:

1.  Scientists will be activated to try to explain it.  Not debunk it - because you can't debunk reality - but explain it. 
2.  Technologists will be activated to try and make use of it.  For this, science is very useful because it makes engineering much easier.  But it is not necessary.  It is entirely plausible that we could build tens of billions of dollars worth of value without any deep theory about how it is actually working. 


I propose two challenges that are easy enough to judge.

Challenge #1: One million dollars is awarded to the first team that develops a mathematical proof of how and why the EM Drive operates.  I want to see "Q.E.D." a the end of the proof, and not "and then a miracle happens..."

Challenge #2: Ten million dollars is awarded to the first team that floats a working EM drive into an auditorium (without irradiating the audience).

Bonus Milestone Challenge!:  US$50,000 is awarded to the first team that demonstrates a working EMdrive with a measured thrust signal 3 standard deviations, screw it, 4 standard deviations, above the predicted noise levels.

Re: EM Drive X-Prize Planning
« Reply #12 on: 05/13/2015 04:17 pm »
It seems that the available space for a challenge is between where we might expect the Eagleworks team to be by the end of the summer and the "practical edge" - the farthest that we could reasonably hope that someone could get with $1M - $2M in investment and 18 months of work. 

Is there a milestone here that is compelling?  Our most powerful objective is to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that there is something both real and novel here. 

Hanleyp identified what I think are the lower bound requirements: "Isolation and measurement method must rule out electromagnetic, convective, and stiction artifacts."  It seems to me that while a vacuum would be interesting, this actually introduces unnecessary cost and complication.  I could easily be wrong, but its my understanding that for thrust > X, *no* existing contributory cause (electromagnetic, convective, stiction, etc.) is an adequate explanation for the phenomenon.  It is only because we are currently operating in a micro-power environment that we need to use a vacuum chamber (etc.) to isolate out various alternative explanations. 

At what level of thrust would alternate explanations drop out?  We have a model that suggests that "the expected thrust to power for initial flight applications is expected to be in the 0.4 newton per kilowatt electric (N/kWe) range."  and this is without any fancy materials science (i.e., superconductivity). 

Would 1 newton suffice to rule out alternative explanations?  10 newton?  100? 

Offline TheTraveller

Re: EM Drive X-Prize Planning
« Reply #13 on: 05/13/2015 04:48 pm »
BIG problem is with BIG money on the table, everybody will go DARK and nothing will be shared. I've seen 1st hand what greed does to the best of people. Best of luck.

My EM Drive research, plans, drawings, schematics, BOM, test rig, photos, videos, result data, etc will be public. Don't care about the money. Only way to fly this.
It Is Time For The EmDrive To Come Out Of The Shadows

Offline Mulletron

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Re: EM Drive X-Prize Planning
« Reply #14 on: 05/13/2015 05:00 pm »
BIG problem is with BIG money on the table, everybody will go DARK and nothing will be shared. I've seen 1st hand what greed does to the best of people. Best of luck.

My EM Drive research, plans, drawings, schematics, BOM, test rig, photos, videos, result data, etc will be public. Don't care about the money. Only way to fly this.

Yes, and if you approach this from another perspective, if it is already dark, this will force it back into the light. I commend you on your openness and altruism.  :)  Please help us design some top notch challenge criteria.

This is an opportunity for skeptics to chime in with some seriously impressive "put up or shut up" challenges which would be worthy of recognition if successfully met.

I know this site is home to the best of the best who know their stuff.
And I can feel the change in the wind right now - Rod Stewart

Offline sfrank

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Re: EM Drive X-Prize Planning
« Reply #15 on: 05/13/2015 05:04 pm »
BIG problem is with BIG money on the table, everybody will go DARK and nothing will be shared. I've seen 1st hand what greed does to the best of people. Best of luck.

My EM Drive research, plans, drawings, schematics, BOM, test rig, photos, videos, result data, etc will be public. Don't care about the money. Only way to fly this.

Yes, and if you approach this from another perspective, if it is already dark, this will force it back into the light. I commend you on your openness and altruism.  :)  Please help us design some top notch challenge criteria.

This is an opportunity for skeptics to chime in with some seriously impressive "put up or shut up" challenges which would be worthy of recognition if successfully met.

I know this site is home to the best of the best who know their stuff.

If we set up a gofundme to collect money to fund the replicators attempts, would you (@Mulletron and @TheTraveller) accept money from that?  I don't want to beat a dead horse but it just seems like a gofundme campaign is the appropriate level of crowdfunding support at this time. Plus it gives us the added benefit of seeing immediate results.  Then later, if we decide things have progressed to the point where an X-Prize would help spark the next level of research, the gofundme account could provide the seed money for that prize.  It literally would just take a few clicks to get set up and we can go back to planning X-Prize criteria while we collect money to fund your current experiments.  That is, if you're interested in that.

Or as reddit would say:

Offline A_M_Swallow

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Re: EM Drive X-Prize Planning
« Reply #16 on: 05/13/2015 05:14 pm »
{snip}
Is there a milestone here that is compelling?  Our most powerful objective is to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that there is something both real and novel here. 

Hanleyp identified what I think are the lower bound requirements: "Isolation and measurement method must rule out electromagnetic, convective, and stiction artifacts."  It seems to me that while a vacuum would be interesting, this actually introduces unnecessary cost and complication.  I could easily be wrong, but its my understanding that for thrust > X, *no* existing contributory cause (electromagnetic, convective, stiction, etc.) is an adequate explanation for the phenomenon.  It is only because we are currently operating in a micro-power environment that we need to use a vacuum chamber (etc.) to isolate out various alternative explanations. 

{snip}
For work on the Earth operation in a vacuum is not needed, except for a single proof of concept model that can be made by NASA. For use in spaceships the equipment (probably) needs to work outside, outside in LEO is a vacuum.

Note: I am treating the thruster like wheels and rocket nozzles which only work outside but being propellant-less the EM thruster may be the exception to the rule. However that unique would also need proving.

Online aero

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Re: EM Drive X-Prize Planning
« Reply #17 on: 05/13/2015 05:21 pm »
Well, the Chinese claim over 700 mN at less than or at 2500 Watts. Doubling that power to 5 Kw should hit a target above one Newton. But is a conceptually simple increase (not so simple in practice) in drive power the answer wanted? Or do we hope for a solution of some number of mN per Watt of drive power? Or some value of thrust to weight? Or do we need a metric that incorporates all three?

Maybe an absolute minimum total thrust requirement (one Newton) with a factor for thrust/power and thrust/weight, not including the weight of the power source. Perhaps Thrust/weight > 0.1 and drive power less than 1200 Watts. High power RF is very dangerous, even 1200 Watts is hazardous.

I use the term "RF" but I wonder if the operating frequency range should not even be a consideration?

And I do note that a 3 kg cavity (reasonable engine mass) with thrust/weight > 0.1 would produce 0.3  Newtons thrust. To get 1 Newton thrust from a 3 kg cavity requires a T/W >= 1/3 but at 1000 Watts drive power requires only Thrust/power 0.003 N/W (300 mN/W) which is near values that have been claimed.

Better heads than mine should tell if an engine performing to such specification could give unambiguous test data.
Retired, working interesting problems

Offline A_M_Swallow

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Re: EM Drive X-Prize Planning
« Reply #18 on: 05/13/2015 05:24 pm »
It seems that the available space for a challenge is between where we might expect the Eagleworks team to be by the end of the summer and the "practical edge" - the farthest that we could reasonably hope that someone could get with $1M - $2M in investment and 18 months of work. 

Is there a milestone here that is compelling?  Our most powerful objective is to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that there is something both real and novel here. 
{snip}

We have to prove to a disbelieving public that the thruster actually thrusts. A vehicle that moves 3 metre (9.84 feet) should do this. It could be along the floor or rails. Wheels optional.

Offline Mulletron

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Re: EM Drive X-Prize Planning
« Reply #19 on: 05/13/2015 05:54 pm »

If we set up a gofundme to collect money to fund the replicators attempts, would you (@Mulletron and @TheTraveller) accept money from that? I don't want to beat a dead horse but it just seems like a gofundme campaign is the appropriate level of crowdfunding support at this time. Plus it gives us the added benefit of seeing immediate results.  Then later, if we decide things have progressed to the point where an X-Prize would help spark the next level of research, the gofundme account could provide the seed money for that prize.  It literally would just take a few clicks to get set up and we can go back to planning X-Prize criteria while we collect money to fund your current experiments.  That is, if you're interested in that.

Or as reddit would say:


Heck no and gofundme is not the focus of this thread.
« Last Edit: 05/13/2015 05:54 pm by Mulletron »
And I can feel the change in the wind right now - Rod Stewart

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